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The recontextualisation of values in the multilingual workplace

Anne Kari Bjørge (Department of Professional and Intercultural Communication, NHH Norwegian School of Economics, Bergen, Norway)
Alexander Madsen Sandvik (Department of Strategy and Management, NHH Norwegian School of Economics, Bergen, Norway)
Sunniva Whittaker (Department of Professional and Intercultural Communication, NHH Norwegian School of Economics, Bergen, Norway)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 7 August 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore how corporate values are interpreted by local and international employees in a multilingual organisation that has opted for the local language, not English, as its corporate language.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a research paper exploring how the recontextualisation and resemiotisation of value terms impact on how corporate values are interpreted, employing triangulation of questionnaire and interview results.

Findings

When values are recontextualised in employee discourse, proficiency in the corporate language and cultural background was found to have an impact on their interpretation. Internationals were found to have a broader and not exclusively professional interpretation compared to the locals. Internationals with a low level of proficiency in the local language were more sceptical than the locals as to whether there was a shared understanding of the values.

Research limitations/implications

The questionnaire yielded fewer respondents than the authors expected, which should be taken into account when interpreting the results.

Practical implications

The paper suggests best practices for communicating corporate values to a multilingual workforce.

Social implications

This paper contributes to the understanding of linguistic challenges in the multilingual work contexts.

Originality/value

To the authors’ knowledge, there is little prior in-depth research on how language impacts on employees’ interpretation of corporate values. As values are cohesive devices in organisations, the language used to convey them is worth addressing as the present paper aims to demonstrate.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the FOCUS programme at NHH Norwegian School of Economics for funding the data collection. The authors would also like to thank the reviewers for their valuable comments to earlier versions of the paper.

Citation

Bjørge, A.K., Sandvik, A.M. and Whittaker, S. (2017), "The recontextualisation of values in the multilingual workplace", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 401-416. https://doi.org/10.1108/CCIJ-09-2016-0062

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited